Comparison of The Withered Arm and Lamb to the Slaughter

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The Withered arm was written in by . The Withered arm was set back when people were still divided into tier’s. The wealthy land owners, and the workers, who were often quite poor. The story is about the life of Rhoda Brook and how she becomes jealous of her ex boyfriends new wife, she becomes so jealous that she accidentally curses her. This is where the title of the play comes from because the curse causes Gertrude’s arm to become withered. Rhoda is a milkmaid, and a social reject, she is talked about by her work colleagues behind her back and doesn’t socialise with them in any way.

She is a lonely milkmaid and looks far older than her age, she seems to be a genuinely nice person who is glad of Gertrude’s friendship even though she is jealous of her position. Her life is lonely and of a poor quality, she has little money to spend and a son to support. Her job obviously doesn’t bring much money in and the father to her son has rejected him and wants nothing to do with him. She breaks society’s rules by having the love affair with Farmer Lodge, Rhoda is in the lower tier of people and Farmer Lodge is a rich land owner, this affair is kept quiet and when Rhoda becomes pregnant she is cast aside.

What makes Rhoda interesting is the fact that she has had an affair with a rich land owner, she is assumed to be a witch by society and she is jealous of Gertrude’s position but still enjoys her friendship. She is a strange character in the way that she likes and dislikes Gertrude, both for two different reasons. I do not think Rhoda is evil at the start of the story but towards the end of the story I think we see what she is truly like. There are two tragedies in the story, the first being the cursing of Gertrude and the second is the death of Rhoda and Farmer Lodge’s son.

The first tragedy was an accident, Rhoda dreamed about an incubus that looked like Gertrude and in her dream she grabbed the incubus’ arm and threw it to the floor, Rhoda’s son heard something hit the floor at the time of Rhoda’s dream suggesting it was more than a dream and indeed it was, the dream placed a curse upon Gertrude and gave her a withered arm. There is one reason that points to Rhoda being guilty of placing the curse upon Gertrude, firstly she is jealous of Gertrude and even if she doesn’t realise it, probably had an underlying hatred towards Gertrude because of her position in society.

But Rhoda didn’t realise that she was cursing Gertrude, she believed it was a dream and even woke up in her own bed after the dream. Farmer Lodge can be blamed for this happening, If he hadn’t left Rhoda when she was pregnant and if he hadn’t neglected his son then Rhoda would have no reason to be jealous of Gertrude, the curse and jealousy Rhoda felt towards Gertrude was only there because of the hurt Farmer Lodge had caused to Rhoda and her son. The second tragedy, Rhoda’s sons death is not any one’s fault, it simply come about from the son being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lamb to the slaughter was set in middle class America. In lamb to the slaughter Mary Maloney receives the news that her husband is leaving her. We do not know the reason why but Mary refuses to believe it and carries on about her normal activities until she snaps and kills her husband. Mary is a stereotypical housewife, she waits to welcome her husband home, she pours his drinks, cooks his dinner, does the shopping and is pregnant. Her husband is also a stereotypical male for the time in the way that he expects her to do this for him. The relationship seems to be a happy one, it is one based upon routine.

She seems to have an obsession with her husband and this is why when she hears the news she does not believe it. When Mary is told she goes from being a happy housewife and into shock and becomes a walking zombie in the way that she goes about her usual routine as if she never heard what he said, she also seems to be in planning mode for what she will do next. She is comparable to Gertrude only in the way that she want everything to be perfect for her husband but she can be compared to Rhoda by a few things, they are both pregnant and they both are left by their partners whilst they are pregnant.

The tragedy in this story is the murder of Patrick Maloney. Mary is obviously guilty for the death of Patrick as she did it on purpose but I do not think it was planned, it was a snap decision. Patrick is also to blame because he was leaving Mary and she couldn’t cope with it. In lamb to the slaughter Mary isn’t entirely to blame for her actions as she could not cope with what her husband told her and in the withered arm Rhoda Brook is not entirely to blame either. Society is to blame in The Withered Arm in the way that they rejected Rhoda and made her feel like an outcast.

And the husbands in both the stories are to blame for the tragedies that occurred. Patrick gave her news she could not handle and made no effort to comfort her after having told her leaving it to go round in her head, winding her up until she did something about it. And Rhoda would not have been jealous of Gertrude and would not have ended up cursing her and destroying the marriage between Gertrude and Farmer Lodge if he hadn’t have left her whilst she was pregnant and then rejected his one and only son.

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